Category Reviews

The Lesser Blessed (2013)

(Originally published in LA Weekly) You’ve probably seen most of the elements that make upThe Lesser Blessed before: the icy, desolate rural town, teens who get high and have sex because there’s nothing else to do, two friends who want the same girl, a family that can’t communicate. But The Lesser Blessedcan be forgiven for treading on […]

White Elephant (Elefante blanco) (2013)

(Originally published in the Houston Press) Director Pablo Trapero brings the slums of Buenos Aires vividly to life in White Elephant (Elefante Blanco), a meditative, beautifully photographed, remarkably intimate film despite the vast helplessness contained inside it. Julián, a priest in a shantytown called “Villa Virgin,” recruits his friend and fellow priest Nicolás to join him in his […]

Free China: The Courage to Believe (2013)

(Originally published in The Village Voice and LA Weekly) Free China: The Courage to Believe delivers a powerful, if at times heavy-handed, warning: The systematic and state-sanctioned persecution of peaceful citizens is alive and well in China. The hourlong, talking-head documentary tells the story of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice combining Buddhism and Daoism, which took […]

Book review: Turn, Magic Wheel (1936)

If you’ve ever peered, unnoticed, through a crack in your backyard fence, spying on the neighbors, you’ve got the essence of any standard character study novel. But just imagine you could also read those neighbors’ minds as well, and go inside their house uninvited. Now you’ve got Dawn Powell’s fairly brilliant 1936 satire Turn, Magic […]

The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2013)

(Originally published in LA Weekly) Turn on your spaceships and fire up the jukebox. In writer-director Paul Bunnell’s supremely ridiculous tale, 1950s-style rebel Johnny X (Will Keenan) and his coed gang of dropouts, the Ghastly Ones, are exiled to Earth from their faraway planet. Their crime, it seems, is performing selfish deeds involving a powerful […]

Theatre Review: Rent (2009 National Tour)

The lights haven’t even dimmed in the theater yet as Adam Pascal strides onto the stage, toting a guitar. He sits down and begins to strum quietly, with only an amp, table, a few chairs, and a towering set piece made out of scrap metal for company. This is scene one, act one of Rent. […]

Forbidden Games (1952)

From the ages of about one to 12, half of my world existed within the confines of my imagination. I spent hours there, drawing inspiration from everyone and everything around me to build vast stories that would occupy my hours of playtime. Once involved in a game, it was tough to leave it. Most summer […]

Nashville (TV, 2012)

Rayna James, the middle-aged country superstar at the heart of ABC’s Nashville, is told by one of her managers in the pilot episode that she “needs to find her place in a new market.” Nashville creator/writer Callie Khouri would do well to follow her own advice. Nashville’s premise is tantalizingly rich – Glee or Smash […]

The Believer (2001)

The Believer is not an easy movie to watch. Pure, unfiltered racism bursts from the neo-Nazis at its center, vicious enough to make even the most moderate or non-religious viewer squirm. But trying not to be totally engrossed by this formidable film would be useless, for few films in recent memory have presented a main […]

The Crowd (1928)

King Vidor’s The Crowd is a film of such warmth, such all-American joy and good humor, that when it finally decides to get serious, it delivers one of the biggest imaginable sucker-punches of silent cinema. Thank God for that, because it turns what at first threatens to be one of the happiest and most pointless […]